VOLUNTEER IF YOU CAN; YOU’LL BE GLAD YOU DID
Editor’s Note: The coronavirus is hitting everyone hard and that is especially true of places that depend on volunteers. The universities are closed until further notice, meaning many nonprofits are without their regular volunteers. Meals on Wheels for example is in need of volunteer drivers, even on a substitute basis. Every agency in town that relies on volunteers is in need. If you’re able, give them a call.
By LORETTA FULTON
Just doing something feels good. Ask any of the approximately 80 volunteers who turned out Tuesday evening, March 17, to help pack 2,600 bags of food for school chldren in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“How many of you–this is your first time to do this?” asked Terry Davis, organizer.
When a sizeable number of people raised their hands, they were greeted with hoots, hollers, whistles, and enthusiastic applause from the regulars.
Davis is director of ministries for Love & Care Ministries, which administers the Care Pack for Kids program. During the school year, the program serves children in need in Abilene ISD and nine area school districts. Normally, about 130 volunteers show up every other Tuesday at a warehouse owned by Love & Care Ministries to pack the bags.
But the smaller number of volunteers on March 17 didn’t disappoint, packing 2,600 bags in about 50 minutes. The bags, packed into plastic crates, were scheduled to be picked up by school personnel for distribution.
Because of the large number of first-time volunteers, a response to the coronavirus scrare, Davis went over basic instructions. He added a precaution. The plastic bags sometimes are difficult to open, he noted.
“Your natural tendency is to lick your fingers,” Davis said. “Don’t do that tonight.”
During normal times, the bags are handed out on Fridays to children who depend on the food to get them through the weekend. But with schools closed due to the coronavirus threat, the bags may even more necessary. Abilene and Wylie schools are still feeding children, but those on free or reduced lunch programs need the additional bags of food.
In the Abilene Independent School District, approximately 73 percent of the students come from families that are at or below the federal poverty level, qualifying them for free or reduced-price lunches.
The 80 volunteers who packed bags March 17 were in a good mood, with music in the background, and a sense of doing the right thing prevailing. Joshua Hunter is working on a master’s degree in social work at Abilene Christian University, which like other universities and schools, is on extended spring break due to the coronavirus. He’s staying at his parents’ home in Abilene while on break.
Volunteering Tuesday night was a no-brainer for Hunter. He understands that a lot of kids on Abilene depend on the schools and institutions for food.
“That inspired me to do it,” he said.
Whatever the inspiration, the volunteers turned out, packed the bags, and left with a sense of doing something helpful during a time of uncertainty and fear. They left with an assurance from Davis.
“We’re doing good work here, I promise you,” he said.
And, Davis offered a prayer, including an acknowledgement that God is in control.
“We’re going through tough times,” Davis said in his prayer,”and we need you to make sure our priorities are right.”